When to let go of your bike.
So there I was, on the trail with a torn rotator cuff (only I didn’t know it at the time). I was in a classically comical situation where the bike was getting away from me on an incline at zero speed. The pivot turn I was executing went perfectly until the end. I made an error in clutch and throttle control (we all do at times) and the bike began to throttle away from me as I was bringing the front wheel back down to terra firma. That’s when I made my big mistake. I held on to the bars in an attempt to keep control and guide the bike gently to the ground. My body was contorted in a funny way, I was way off balance, my arms were extended awkwardly, and the handlebars hit the ground with a sharp sudden impact. Ow! My shoulder!
How to save yourself?
What should I have done in this case? I should have let the bike go the moment I lost control. It was a dirt bike with handguards and probably would have been just fine. My torn rotator cuff injury was luckily just shy of needing an operation if I took it easy and did lots of rehab. It cost me about 10 months of not riding. Learn from my mistake and read on.
Is there a golden rule? I believe the golden rule is to save your body first, but try to drop your bike in a way that minimizes damage if possible. I try to at least guide the bike towards a safer landing before letting go. Afterall, we do want to minimize damage and not just randomly throw it away.
What should you do? It depends on your situation and the bike you’re riding. When I’m riding my trials bike, I can hold on and manage the bike more easily because it’s so light. It’s almost like my mtn bike. But….when the situation really gets out of control, I let it go. When I’m riding my adventure bike and things get out of hand, I step out to keep my legs from getting trapped under the heavy machine. Let the bike go. It’s too heavy to risk getting hurt by it. Bike parts can be replaced. When I’m on the dirt bike or dual sport, I find myself doing a combination of methods. Stepping off a bike going downhill is a lot different than going uphill. Failing on climbing a ledge or riding over a big log involve varying ways of dismounting your bike. Watch videos of pro trials riders. They’re amazing at this.
Wait there is more?
A classic example is the typical dirt hill climb where you’re losing momentum and it becomes clear that you’re not going to make it to the top. We’ve all been there. What should you not do? You shouldn’t keep going until you stop and possibly stall the engine. Now you’re stuck and have nowhere to go but backwards while out of control. What should you do? Use what little speed and momentum you have left after your assessment of the situation and turn around if possible. If you can’t turn around, then at least try to get the bike turned sideways to the hill so that you can control the bike and plan your next move. You can now wiggle the bars back and forth to slide the front wheel downhill. Ride back down and try it again! If you got caught off guard and don’t have time to turn sideways to the hill, then hop off while holding onto the bars and lay the bike on it’s side. Regroup, wiggle the bars to make the front end slide back downhill, and ride back down. These are some methods of avoiding having to abandon ship and let the bike go. I go over these kinds of things in my classes.
Interesting takeaway title
The takeaway here is to think about what you’re doing and what’s going on. Control your bike as best you can. When you lose control, let the bike go. Holding on until it stops can hurt your hands, wrists, shoulders, or other parts of your body. I had to learn this the hard way.
Enjoy the ride!
P.S. This is my first blog of many. I hope my ramblings will be helpful. They are drawn from over 40 years experience. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy riding in Europe, Africa, and the US. My riding has been a mix of everything from street commuter, motorcycle courier, cross country touring, adventure riding (ADV), dual sport, hare scrambles, enduros, trials, roadracing, and most importantly, riding with friends for fun. Remember to have fun!